Attorney General candidate Reagan Dunn was criticized by abortion-rights advocates for saying pharmacists should not have to provide “Plan B” morning-after contraceptives if they have moral or religious objections – even though the state Board of Pharmacy has approved rules requiring that such prescriptions be filled.
Speaking to KGMI radio in Bellingham on Saturday, Dunn was asked if it’s appropriate for the state to sue a pharmacy over contraceptives. The question referred to a legal battle in which the Storman family, owners of an Olympia pharmacy, have challenged state rules in a case now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate at this time,” Dunn replied. “I believe personally that Mr. Storman, the Storman family, is right in their fight that under the religious liberty of the Constitution of the United States and the state of Washington that if somebody has a legitimate religious and moral objection to selling something like the morning-after pill they ought to have the right not to sell it if they so choose.”
He went on to say about the Stormans, “I hope they win.”
That brought a rebuke from abortion-rights advocates.
“It is incredibly disappointing that a candidate for Attorney General – the very office charged with defending the Pharmacy Board rules in court – would come out in such strong opposition to patient access at the pharmacy counter,” said Jennifer Brown, executive director NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, in a statement.
In an interview Dunn, a Republican, said he was misunderstood. He was speaking about his personal views, not his approach as state attorney general. As attorney general, he said would support the state’s appeal to the 9th Circuit, and his office would make the best arguments possible.
Dunn’s Democratic opponent Bob Ferguson – endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice Washington – accused Dunn of trying to backtrack from what he said on a conservative talk show.
Alison Mondi, a spokeswoman for NARAL, said she’s glad Dunn says he would stand up for Pharmacy Board rules.
“I still find it concerning,” she added, “that his personal views are not in line with the Pharmacy Board and what a majority of Washingtonians support in terms of protecting patient access at the pharmacy counter, and it calls into question how vigorously his office would defend the rules.”
Dunn’s first sentence is clear and troubling, Ferguson said, and only after that did Dunn talk about his personal views.
Ferguson also jabbed at Dunn for pulling for the Stormans in court. “For someone who wants to be attorney general on a case that may end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s not a good idea to say you’re rooting for somebody suing the state,” Ferguson said.
Dunn insisted he wasn’t “walking back” and said if Ferguson, who was invited, appeared on the Saturday radio show he would’ve been happy to debate him on the issue.